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Movie Review- Fear Street Part 1: 1994 (2021)

Written by the renowned horror author R.L Stine, the Fear Street series debuted with the The New Girl, which was first published in 1989. The original series, which spanned fifty-one books, was aimed at an older audience, was considerably more darker than Stine’s more child-friendly flagship series Goosebumps. Its popularity has persisted into the modern day, with revivals as recent as 2014, with a total of 80 million books being sold by 2010. With such a plethora of source material, a Hollywood adaptation was inevitable. Thus, Netflix released a trilogy of films this year based on the novels: Fear Street Part One: 1994, Fear Street Part 2: 1978 and Fear Street Part 3: 1666, all directed by Leigh Janiak, who previously directed the mind-bending body horror Honeymoon (2014).

The first installment centres around teenager Deena (Kiana Madeira) whose existence in the dismal, crime-ridden town of Shadyside is further dampened by recent heartbreak over Sam (Olivia Scott Welch), who has also defected to Shadyside’s more prosperous neighbour Sunnyside, presided over by the seemingly amiable Sheriff Nick Goode (Ashley Zukerman). Her grief-fuelled grudge leads to the reawakening of an ancient curse revolving around an executed witch, Sarah Fier. It targets her, Sam, her conspiracy-obsessed brother (Benjamin Flores Jr.) and her friends (Julia Rehwald and Fred Hechinger). As they team up to survive, they also uncover the dark truth behind the various violent crimes that have plagued their hometown over the decades, while Sam and Deena slowly reconcile.

The plot of the adolescent cast being pursued by monstrous killers dispatched by a long-dead female ghost is somewhat derivative of the earlier Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark (2019). Also, the main protagonist’s teenage angst is both cliched and grating, detracting from the dark tone of the film. However, these flaws are counterbalanced by a genuinely charming cast of characters, positive LGBTQA+ content and a grunge-soaked soundtrack. Its ghostly antagonists are genuinely intimidating and it has one of the most creative and brutal kills I’ve seen in a horror film in a long time. As per modern cinematic convention, it’s also loaded with lovingly-placed Easter eggs for veteran fans, some of which require a few watches to catch. Fear Street: Part 1 is a creative adaptation that expertly sets up an expanded universe of horrors while telling an engaging individual story.

8/10

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